Don't care for sports - so how do I talk about it?
September 4, 2008 6:50 PM   Subscribe

I don't have any interest in following sports, but the people I meet for interviews and networking do. How do I play the part?

So I went to the University of Texas and Longhorn football, or just football in general, is big in Texas. To a lesser extent, so is basketball. So when I'm meeting alumni or find myself interviewing for a position, it comes up.

I don't hate sports and played basketball and football in high school. I don't have a TV so I don't watch games and I don't spend anytime on because sports news doesn't interest me.

Is there like a talking points memo for sports? The main ones I'm concerned with are NFL football, NBA Basketball, NCAA football and NCAA basketball.

You know, just enough to be familiar. For example, right now I have no idea which teams are in the running for the Superbowl or who the star player for Texas is.

Again, it's not the fundamentals of the sports that I need help understanding. It's the new players and team changes that occur each season that people obsess about and I don't care for.
posted by abdulf to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
People who obsess over sports don't expect you to be as knowledgeable as them, but to be able to at least be a reasonably-informed person. Enough to ask the right questions.

So on that note, what's wrong with reading the sports section?
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:57 PM on September 4, 2008

Have you tried Yahoo!? (No, I'm not asking excitedly)

Longhorns, for instance.
posted by codswallop at 6:59 PM on September 4, 2008

I would not try to fake it. If you spout something off a talking points list, and the person you're talking to is a true believer, they'll know in a second that you don't know what you're talking about. There's nothing wrong with saying, for example, "You know, sportswise, I'm into hiking and rockclimbing [or whatever you might do], and I really don't follow team sports that closely." Then, ask them to enlighten you. Follow the above with "But I take it you're a big Longhorns fan." They'll take the cue and tell you how big. Ask a few questions and sometimes you can actually find common ground, and at least you're showing interest.
posted by beagle at 7:00 PM on September 4, 2008

So, in other words - "How do I feign interest?"

If you aren't interested - say so. Pretending you know what's going on and not investing any effort in knowing what's going is a recipe for a disaster. You'll end up looking foolish.

You're better off being a good listener and simply letting the other party direct the conversation. Let them lead you to topics you have an interest in.
posted by djpappas at 7:00 PM on September 4, 2008

ESPN has specific sites for teams. It includes news and notes from all the games and such. Brush up on your Longhorns and Cowboys there. You could also try tuning in to so sports radio during your drive in the morning.
posted by sanka at 7:01 PM on September 4, 2008

I hire interesting people, not people interested in my interests. That doesn't answer your questions, but, reading a newspaper every day does wonder for small talk in general.
posted by kcm at 7:02 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

A salesman from the UK told me once, all he needed to know about American Football. If people are talking about a recent game, just say "I heard they got some bad calls."
posted by and for no one at 7:06 PM on September 4, 2008 [5 favorites]

The -ist sites tend to have low-volume local interest sports coverage.
posted by milkrate at 7:12 PM on September 4, 2008

I'm in the same boat.

When I know I'm going to need some sports info or news for some decent small talk, I spend 30 seconds (literally) scanning headlines on for big news or the updates on whatever sports are currently being played.

(And, it doesn't sound to me like you are trying to fake it or even just feign interest. You just need a little small talk's like knowing the weather report so you have something to discuss with your barber.)
posted by roofone at 7:15 PM on September 4, 2008

Watch or listen to Mike and Mike on television (ESPN2) or the radio (ESPN radio affiliates). It's a whole lot better than any other radio or television sports discussion show. The conversations are smart, the hosts don't take it too seriously, and best of all NO CALLS. Therefore, the hour is not dominated by sports fans who just call and yell about how one team sucks.
posted by ALongDecember at 7:19 PM on September 4, 2008

if you listen to your local sports talk radio station, you should be able to stay at least relatively current. they frequently discuss the debates about new players, expectations for teams and coaches that are in circulation and would allow you to at least hold a conversation. you can do it to and/or from work in the car. if you have no interest, it may seem like a chore, but it is far more targeted to your local teams than ESPN.

Lemurrhea's suggestion of the local paper's sports section is also a great idea. do not forget about the blogosphere. if you're looking for college football info every day should be saturday is a good place for general overview, but there are dozens of sites out there for every team. finding and keeping up with them requires a little more effort.
posted by ashabanapal at 7:20 PM on September 4, 2008

Don't admit to it too easily. For a while I was honest and admitted an interest in the Tour and marathons, but I think that counts against you because many of the people who consider *ball a sacred tradition will consider those things to be highbrow, etc. You might want to say that you used to keep up with it, but you've fallen behind: that reveals interest but a potential for that person to be the whiz: for instance "I've been a Rams fan, but I stopped watching after (epic loss). How are they doing nowadays?"

disclaimer: I haven't had to deal with this since I started working coolnerd jobs.
posted by tmcw at 7:25 PM on September 4, 2008

It may not give you the coverage of the 'horns that you need, but King Kaufman's sports column is a breath of fresh air compared to traditional sports coverage.
posted by mmascolino at 7:27 PM on September 4, 2008

All of the above!!!!! Just be yourself. If we all had the same interests the world would be rather boring.
posted by docmccoy at 7:52 PM on September 4, 2008

Just read the general sports section of any paper/site/magazine for a few weeks and you'll soon have your own talking points and areas of interest. Reading surface articles about basic facts will come quite easily, and you may even found yourself drawn into deeper articles/statistics/schedules.

You can make it really easy for yourself by adding a couple of major sports sites into your site rotation/RSS feed, so that you see a summary of the major talking points each day.

Other than that, tmcw makes a good point about saying you've fallen behind in the current goings-on and ask folks for their own opinions. I know very few people who wouldn't relish a chance to talk about their interests when explicitly invited to do so. Rely on that tactic until you've got enough info from conversations and reading to feel more natural with it.
posted by batmonkey at 7:54 PM on September 4, 2008

found/find...danged mental wanders while typing
posted by batmonkey at 7:55 PM on September 4, 2008

beagle's got it. Don't fake it.

Erh, do you workmates have a pool going during the season? Subscribe or google that year's "pool guide" and play with them. After a while, you'll start following the news and stuff and keep track of the stats. Maybe you'll even get into it.

At least it gives you something to talk about, like, "man, so-and-so was supposed to be good, what the hell happened to him this year?" or somesuch.

Heh. I picked (pretty much) blindly in an office/lab pool this past hockey season (mind you, I *like* hockey but haven't been arsed to follow it regularly since I don't have cable) and ended up with the best +/- by a landslide.
posted by porpoise at 9:05 PM on September 4, 2008

My brother has worked sales for a very long time and is always at the top of this class. He's not interested in most sports, but he knows that it's a good conversation starter and relationship builder. One of his top tips is this:

Every morning he reads the front of the sports page for the region(s) he's going to be selling in that day. Take about 2 minutes and you'll know all you need to hold a good conversation about it. When you feel your grasp on the conversation slipping, change the topic. "Yeah, they really are getting hammerd this season. It reminds me of [something unrelated you'd rather talk about.]"

On the other hand maybe these people are just dull and no amount of homework is going to help you.
posted by Ookseer at 9:13 PM on September 4, 2008

Just be yourself. No need to play a part. Listen to what they say and comment according to what knowledge you have. Even sports fans know that everyone doesn't know all that crap.
posted by wv kay in ga at 11:25 PM on September 4, 2008

I feel the same way, though I'm now fortunate to live in a small college town where professional sports rarely dominate conversations. That said, my best strategy is to admit ignorance rather than express disinterest. If someone brings up some sports-related current event, I ask questions about why that event is important, what it means for the team, the league, etc. I get to learn something, the person who educates me feels engaged and appreciated, and it's all relatively painless.
posted by jon1270 at 3:59 AM on September 5, 2008

Become a hockey fan. Or at least familiarize yourself with the basics of hockey and at least one or two NHL teams. Being a hockey fan is like being a Jethro Tull fan. People know about hockey, but really don't want to admit it. Therefore your hockey fandom will put a limiter on the conversation in three easy steps: 1. You want to talk about hockey, 2. They think hockey isn't a real sport (Tull e.g. plays "Flute-rock" not real R&R) 3. They won't want to talk about hockey. Problem solved.
posted by Gungho at 4:22 AM on September 5, 2008

If you're talking to someone you'll have to talk to again, you'll be trapping yourself into keeping up with sports all the time, or else risk getting caught.

The main thing I'd worry about is making sure you don't come across as thinking you're too good (or smart or whatever) for sports.

Or, if you're interviewing for a job, say that you don't have time for sports because you work so hard.:)
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 4:25 AM on September 5, 2008

I understand the position you're in, because guys who are not interested in sports definitely seem to be the exception in America. It's certainly difficult if you're speaking with someone who as some influence over you - interviewers and whatnot.

I agree that you don't need to feign interest, but I've come to realize that for those limited situations where I'm trying to impress someone (as in an interview), having a small bit of knowledge of the past couple days' results is usually enough. And I get this through public radio. The local news breaks that happen between shows (or your local version of "Morning Edition") is a great source; it will tell you who played, who won, and maybe one statistic ("Third straight loss in a row!"). This should be enough to fend off any idle chatter about sports, especially if you reply in a dismissive manner.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:19 AM on September 5, 2008

As far as feigning goes, for professional sports "how is that new kid working out?" is always a good conversion starter. There is always a new kid and he is always having his ups and downs which someone will be glad to tell you about.

A friend of mine got a job at a retail brokerage, which is sort of a frat boy atmosphere, and was feeling his lack of sports interest. He just decided to pick a sport to become interested in and keep up with it. So when someone said "what do you think of the Mets in the post-season?" he could say "Oh, I'm a hockey fan." After a couple of years he really was a hockey fan. Your fanness may vary.
posted by shothotbot at 5:32 AM on September 5, 2008

A salesman from the UK told me once, all he needed to know about American Football. If people are talking about a recent game, just say "I heard they got some bad calls."

No, don't do this. As something of an NFL fan myself, I can say that while every game might have a few bad calls, only a small percentage of games have game-changing bad calls, and it would be weird to bring up the bad calls unless they affected the outcome of the game, or they were egregiously bad.

Example: I don't recall any pundits discussing bad calls in Super Bowl XLII (the most recent one). There probably were a couple, but they don't spring to mind.

I'd be on to this UK salesman pretty quick. I'd also be polite enough not to call him on it, which might lead him to believe his deception was successful when it wasn't.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:32 AM on September 5, 2008

Well I'm totally not a sports fan and especially not for the sort of organized sports you mention, but I love watching Pardon the Interruption with my boyfriend. The rest of the time he watches sports I tend to just tune out the tv, but if PTI is on I perk up and pay attention. It's just half an hour, I love the personalities of the two hosts and the quick round up they do of all the sports stories should be just what you need to not sounds sports illiterate.
posted by peacheater at 7:00 AM on September 5, 2008

Don't look at this as trying to "fake it". Rather, look at it as a way to develop a genuine interest. Knowing a little more about the games, the teams, and the players will go a long way to making you a true "fan".
Read some player bios and "human interest" type stories about the players. Which ones overcame obstacles to get where they are? Which ones are active in local charities and community activities? As for the teams...learn about the traditional rivalries, the team history (has it been a long time between winning seasons?). For the sport in general, I find that most non-fans (of any sport) don't know enough about the rules and strategies to find the game interesting. If you just see guys running around aimlessly, it's a bore. If you know why they're running and where they're going, any sport can be fascinating. It sounds like you know basketball well enough, so find a "football for dummies" book and learn why we fans love it so much.
posted by rocket88 at 12:05 PM on September 5, 2008

"How bout them Cowboys?" (Dodgers, Longhorns, Yankees...) is usually just a little conversational lube. Things were sticky or stopped and need to get moving again.

There's really no need to talk sports, but there is a need to move the conversation along in a friendly, neutral way. Try the other traditionally safe topics - weather, news, shared interest..
posted by 26.2 at 3:19 PM on September 5, 2008

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